JL: Yes, when you are in a perpetually lopsided relationship. I get a lot of requests for advice from women who say, “I never get my way. I never get what I want. I give and give and give and get nothing in return.” If you feel like there’s no room for you in your own marriage, that’s a legitimate reason to go. Also, if anything physical happens, it’s time to go. I don’t believe in working through that. I’ve seen too many domestic violence cases.
Beyond that, I don’t think there is a magic point. At almost any stage in a marriage, you can get back to where you need to be. You can get back to where it’s acceptable, and once you’re at acceptable you can get to better; from better you can get to good. There’s hope as long as both parties are still engaged. If somebody’s checked out, then there’s nothing you can do with that.
TR: When it comes to picking a spouse, what mistakes do you see black women and men making or overlooking more than other groups?
JL: Black women tend to ignore the cheating more than other women. A lot of black women that I see in court, they’re like, “Yeah, he had this woman, that woman and another woman and I married him, so I thought he would stop that.” Women see all the promises and they think, “If I can get that ring on my finger, he’ll change.” People don’t change when they get married. They just don’t.
Black men don’t know the level of pressure and pain that a woman is in. Black women — economically, socially and everywhere else — are under a lot of pressure. She’s been hurt, and she brings that baggage into the relationship.
The guy thinks, “Well, I’m marrying her, it’s cool now. I’m giving her what she needs.” But if she’s got issues going in, that ring will not solve those issues. Good guys marry women who are deeply hurt without the women having addressed that hurt. Black women, in general, need a little more emotional care then we receive.